Pregnancy, Babies, Parenting News & Tips

Residents of poorer nations find greater meaning in life

By Staff Reporter / Dec 18, 2013 12:15 PM EST
  • Poverty
  • (Photo : Pixabay) Poverty, parenting linked to child brain development

While residents of wealthy nations tend to have greater life satisfaction, new research shows that those living in poorer nations report having greater meaning in life.

These findings, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggest that meaning in life may be higher in poorer nations as a result of greater religiosity. As countries become richer, religion becomes less central to people's lives and they lose a sense of meaning in life.

Like Us on Facebook

"Thus far, the wealth of nations has been almost always associated with longevity, health, happiness, or life satisfaction," explains psychological scientist Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia. "Given that meaning in life is an important aspect of overall well-being, we wanted to look more carefully at differential patterns, correlates, and predictors for meaning in life."

Oishi and colleague Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign investigated life satisfaction, meaning, and well-being by examining data from the 2007 Gallup World Poll, a large-scale survey of over 140,000 participants from 132 countries. In addition to answering a basic life satisfaction question, participants were asked: "Do you feel your life has an important purpose or meaning?" and "Is religion an important part of your daily life?"

The data revealed some unexpected trends:

"Among Americans, those who are high in life satisfaction are also high in meaning in life," says Oishi. "But when we looked at the societal level of analysis, we found a completely different pattern of the association between meaning in life and life satisfaction."

When looking across many countries, Oishi and Diener found that people in wealthier nations were more educated, had fewer children, and expressed more individualistic attitudes compared to those in poorer countries - all factors that were associated with higher life satisfaction but a significantly lower sense of meaning in life.

The data suggest that religiosity may play an important role: Residents of wealthier nations, where religiosity is lower, reported less meaning in life and had higher suicide rates than poorer countries.

According to the researchers, religion may provide meaning in life to the extent that it helps people to overcome personal difficulty and cope with the struggles of working to survive in poor economic conditions:

"Religion gives a system that connects daily experiences with the coherent whole and a general structure to one's life...and plays a critical role in constructing meaning out of extreme hardship," the researchers write.

Oishi and Diener hope to replicate these findings using more comprehensive measures of meaning and religiosity, and are interested in following countries over time to track whether economic prosperity gives rise to less religiosity and less meaning in life.

Provided by Association for Psychological Science
Featured Video : Dr. Ashley Norris on whether parents should help with homework or let the kids complete it alon

Your T-shirt’s ringing: telecommunications in the spaser age

A new version of "spaser" technology being investigated could mean that mobile phones become so small, efficient, and flexible they could be printed on clothing.

Read More »

Skin layer grown from human stem cells could replace animals in drug and cosmetics testing

An international team led by King's College London and the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center (SFVAMC) has developed the first lab-grown epidermis – the outermost skin layer - with a functional permeability barrier akin to real skin. The new epidermis, grown from human pluripotent stem cells, offers a cost-effective alternative lab model for testing drugs and cosmetics, and could also help to develop new therapies for rare and common skin disorders.

Read More »

Too many chefs: Smaller groups exhibit more accurate decision-making

The trope that the likelihood of an accurate group decision increases with the abundance of brains involved might not hold up when a collective faces a variety of factors - as often happens in life and nature. Instead, Princeton University researchers report that smaller groups actually tend to make more accurate decisions while larger assemblies may become excessively focused on only certain pieces of information.

Read More »

Novel compound halts cocaine addiction and relapse behaviors

A novel compound that targets an important brain receptor has a dramatic effect against a host of cocaine addiction behaviors, including relapse behavior, a University at Buffalo animal study has found.

Read More »

Teachers' scare tactics may lead to lower exam scores

Students not threatened by bad consequences of failing perform better on tests

Read More »

Regulating legal marijuana could be guided by lessons from alcohol and tobacco, study says

As U.S. policymakers consider ways to ease prohibitions on marijuana, the public health approaches used to regulate alcohol and tobacco over the past century may provide valuable lessons, according to new RAND Corporation research.

Read More »

Sleeping positions reflect couples' relationship status: study

Sleeping positions may reflect a couple's relationship status, according to a new U.K. study.

Read More »

Reduce wrinkles with exercise, study suggests

It's hardly news that exercise is great for your health, but it may reverse skin aging in people who start a workout regimen later in life, a surprising new study finds.

Read More »

'Juno' protein key to fertility

The "Juno" protein is a recent breakthrough discovery that may hold the key to fertility treatments, according to researchers at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Read More »

Husband kills wife due to marijuana-induced hallucinations

A man from Denver experiencing marijuana-induced hallucinations shot his wife to death while she was on the phone with police Monday, according to reports.

Read More »

Casual marijuana use linked to brain abnormalities

Casual marijuana use may be linked to brain abnormalities associated with emotion and motivation, according to a new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Read More »

J.K. Rowling sues Daily Mail for libel over 'sob story'

J.K. Rowling is suing the Daily Mail for libel after the website claimed the author wrote a misleading "sob story" in which she said she was taunted by churchgoers for being a single mother.

Read More »

Real Time Analytics